People with severe mental illness face health inequalities.

They are more likely to have a preventable physical illness, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, than the general population which can lead to a 15-to-20-year premature mortality gap. They are also more likely to have comorbidities and  multimorbidities. Research suggests rates of preventative screening such as physical health checks and cancer screening, are lower among people with a severe mental illness.

In 2021, the Race Equality foundation started a project to better understand whether African and Caribbean people with severe mental illness were aware of and accessing physical health checks, an NHS intervention to detect and treat early signs of physical ill health. This work has been funded by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC)’s Health and Wellbeing Alliance, and plays a part in NHS England’s Core20PLUS5 approach to tackling health inequalities.

Core20PLUS5 is a national NHS England approach to inform action to reduce healthcare inequalities at both national and system level. The approach defines a target population – the ‘Core20PLUS’ – and identifies ‘5’ focus clinical areas requiring accelerated improvement. A core area is severe mental illness, and ensuring annual physical health checks for people with severe mental illness to at least nationally set targets.

From our research we produced a report on the results of our consulation and a report on what we learnt from co-production on this project. We also produced a film to promote physical health checks for people with severe mental illness and an easy read leaflet.

Find out more about NHS England guidance on improving the physical health of people living with severe mental illness here.

View the launch webinar slide deck here and transcript here.

We would like to thank African Caribbean Mental Health Services Manchester, Sandwell African Caribbean Mental Health Foundation and Sheffield African Caribbean Mental Health Association for their collaboration on this project. We would also like to thank all those who participated in the coproduction group and shared their experiences, it is vital to hear directly from those who are impacted by health inequalities to address them.